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Comment Archives: stories: News: Jameson, Straight

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

Good to hear from you Mike Jameson. Speak out more. Sorry you're off the Council.

Posted by greycelt on 10/30/2011 at 1:24 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

I have no dog in this fight, other than posting anonymously because of my job. But think about this; when Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard's Almanac using the pseudonym Richard Saunders, would you have made the same demands? Or when writing as Silence Dogood?

By the by, I do use a pseudonym which identifies me all across the internet, on Twitter, and in every post I write - you'll see it here. Just because I don't want my employer or some nut-job to be able to track me doesn't mean my opinion is any less valid, does it? And see, a LOT of us don't attack and act ignorant, we ask more than we accuse or belittle. I don't see the big problem - I have been using computers since 1989 and have had an internet connection since 1992, and would not hesitate to identify myself if I knew I could be secure in my person after doing so. All my real-life friends know my political and social leanings, and my Mother is still proud of me after 52 years. I just overlook the trolls and don't let it bother me. I'm not going to whine about some anonymous cretin on the internet, for sure.

Posted by WorkingSlaveUSA on 10/30/2011 at 1:23 AM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

I've read a lot of comments and accusations in the Scene where it was obvious the writer did not have all the facts at hand or has a set of values and priorities different from mine and called me all sorts of names because of those differences. But, assuming I used my real name, what if one my detractors is psycho and decided to go after me but instead caused grief for one of the other three people in the phone book plus a country singer who share my name? And this because someone at the Scene is uncomfortable with anonymous writers?

Posted by gast on 10/27/2011 at 5:19 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

One more thought and I promise I'll stop the serial commenting...I don't think the problem is really "fixable," at least not to my liking, so I've largely abandoned commenting at websites. Can't lose if you don't play.

Posted by Roger Abramson on 10/27/2011 at 4:38 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

Another problem is that anonymity can serve a public purpose. Whistleblowers are often anonymous, for instance, as are many journalistic "sources." How much that usefulness translates to comment boards, I don't know.

Posted by Roger Abramson on 10/27/2011 at 4:24 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

Very fair question. Mere "handles," like "Sarcastro" or "Aunt B." (to use a couple of blasts from the past) aren't as big an issue for me. And that's something I struggle with.

Posted by Roger Abramson on 10/27/2011 at 4:19 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

Roger: are you making a distinction in your comment between anonymous vs. pseudonymous? i.e. do you think the same is true of people that post regularly under a pseudonym?

This debate parallels a lot about what's going on with google+ and their (so far) refusal to allow pseudonymous identities

Posted by Chris Wage on 10/27/2011 at 4:14 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

As John Jay Hooker (above) clearly demonstrates, identities are easily falsified online.

Does anyone even write a letter to the editor anymore? What happened to the Letters to the Editor editor? Can that position not transition into comment moderating? And, there are lots of creative ways that news sources are dealing with comments directly online, through commenter participation as well as moderators.

You have the right to free speech. You don't have a right to have your free speech published. That is entirely up to the publisher, whether in print or online. As long as banal dialog taking up otherwise useful space is what The Scene editors want to protect, they will have an abundance of anonymous/fake-named commenters.

Posted by cyndietodd on 10/27/2011 at 4:13 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

The problem to me is that a non-anonymous person usually cannot (in my experience anyway) have a productive discussion with an anonymous person, because there's no accountability for the anonymous person. That means there's no incentive to be thoughtful, reasonable truthful or civil, since no one knows who you are. Meanwhile, the non-anonymous person--unless he or she is a complete sociopath--has to be (somewhat) more restrained. Effectively, the non-anonymous person is fighting with one hand tied behind his or her back.

I think anonymous commenters should talk only to other anonymous commenters and non-anonymous commenters should talk only to other non-anonymous commenters. at least then folks will be operating on a level playing field.

Roger Abramson

Posted by Roger Abramson on 10/27/2011 at 3:56 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

I've been posting here for years, and no one takes me seriously because I do it anonymously.

Posted by John Jay Hooker on 10/27/2011 at 3:49 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

I think that most likely, problem is the solution. As Tom points out above, the review and comment systems that are successful and valuable are those that let the public police them. Not just "Report this comment" as is featured on this site (which is far to 'extreme' for most people to want to click on), but simple 'vote up/vote down'. The cream rises, the noise falls away. Give users more of a voice, not less of one, and you'll allow them to curate your site for you. Those who value the content and the site will protect it.

Posted by pwnicholson on 10/27/2011 at 3:49 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

It's a thorny problem, to be sure, but I am not sure how your essay adequately explains the problem laid out in the title -- that is: how, exactly, does anonymity devalue the marketplace of ideas? I'm not convinced that it does.

Maybe it's a generational thing. The identification of an idea's merit (or lack thereof) on its face should be sufficient, regardless of where it came from. Troll-spotting is a nascent but necessary skill in the modern arena of debate.

Not that it doesn't get tricky: many times over the last decade I've accused various bloggers of being sophisticated (or not) trolls, only to realize that they actually were, in fact, truly that dumb.

Posted by Chris Wage on 10/27/2011 at 3:35 PM

Re: “Why anonymous online commenters (like the Scene's) devalue the marketplace of ideas

Sure, vetting every comment may be impractical. But it wouldn't be too hard for the Scene and others to adopt something like Amazon.com's "real name" system, which lets reviewers authenticate themselves and then flags their names as genuine. Any idiot can still say anything he wants about a book, but readers of the reviews tend to discount those without real-name certification. The same principle would apply on news sites: be a troll if you want, but most of us will just ignore you if you're not willing to come out and identify yourself.

Posted by Tom Wood on 10/27/2011 at 2:26 PM
Posted by Anonymous on 10/27/2011 at 12:06 PM

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